U.S. wants to strengthen agreement to ban Arctic Ocean fishing

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The United States is trying to broker an agreement between a host of nations to prohibit unregulated fishing in the international waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Such an agreement would be binding and include more countries than a non-binding agreement to avoid fishing in the area that the U.S. entered into with Norway, Denmark, Russia and Canada last year.

Adm. Robert Papp, U.S. special representative for the Arctic, said a binding, multinational agreement would prevent fishing in the Arctic high seas before scientists can determine what is sustainable. He said the issue is especially important as Arctic ice melts, making the area more open to potential commercial fishing.

“We don’t want people fishing in there until we have the science of what’s happening,” Papp said. “It’s a preemptive effort to be able to sustain fisheries into the future.”

The U.S. State Department said last year that the non-binding agreement, signed in Oslo, acknowledged that commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean — an area bigger than Alaska and Texas combined — is unlikely to happen soon. But it also acknowledged that the reduction of Arctic sea ice and the limited scope of scientific knowledge about marine life in the area make it necessary to prevent unregulated fishing.

Signers agreed not to fish in the area until international fishing management measures are in place for the Arctic’s high seas. More than 200 species of fish thrive in the Arctic, some of which have commercial value, such as the Arctic cod.

— Patrick Whittle Associated Press

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